Motor ban expanded on Snake River

A standing-room only crowd at the Virginian Convention Center in Jackson Monday morning resoundingly asked the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission for a full ban on motorized watercraft on the Snake River from the Grand Teton National Park boundary to the Palisades Reservoir.

A large crowd gathered to support a ban on recreational motorboats on the Snake River in Jackson Hole.

A large crowd gathered to support a ban on recreational motorboats on the Snake River in Jackson Hole.

When all was said and done, the crowd of approximately 85 Jackson Hole residents and local elected officials received a large part of what they asked for.

State Game and Fish commissioners attempted to strike a balance between community consensus and a small minority of motorized users, confirming a ban on motorized watercraft from the Teton Park boundary to the South Park Bridge. Commissioners voted to allow motors below South Park to West Table during off-peak months only. Motorized watercraft will be allowed on the South Park-West Table stretch from the day after Labor Day through April 1st. Motors will be restricted there to 115 horsepower. Motorized watercraft will still be allowed from Sheep Gulch to Alpine, as under current regulations.

“This is a good day for the Snake River,” said Rebecca Reimers, executive director of the Snake River Fund.

The Snake River Canyon near Alpine

The Snake River Canyon near Alpine

“The Snake River Fund¬†is so pleased with the results of today’s Game and Fish Commission meeting. We applaud the commissioners for taking so much time to learn this issue, to hear comment from the community, and to honor the request of local river users to limit motor use.

“The river community thoughtfully and respectfully articulated the many reasons increased motor regulations are needed on the Snake, and the Commissioners understood and responded to that need in their ruling.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission had tabled the decision on Teton County motorized watercraft regulations from its summer meeting in Saratoga until its fall meeting in Jackson for commissioners to gather more input. Commissioners toured sites along the Snake River Sunday and heard from more than 30 members of the Teton County public at the Monday morning meeting.

As speaker after speaker spoke to the proposed regulations, it became clear that river safety, tranquility and motor-free enjoyment of nature are values that are near and dear to the hearts of many Jackson Hole residents.

The Teton Board of County Commissioners, Town Council and state Representatives Leland Christensen and Keith Gingery all voiced unanimous support of a full ban on recreational motorized watercraft on the Snake’s full run through Jackson Hole.

Of more than 30 speakers, only two at spoke in favor of non-restricted motorized use.

“It’s not often we get the opportunity to speak as a united front,” Teton County Commissioner Paul Vogelheim said.

“This is a big deal to us,” County Commissioner Hank Phibbs said, describing the community’s fundamental support for protecting natural resources and a tourism-based economy. “And that river is an important part of the natural resources that exist in this valley.”

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